China’s Hubei province has reported 81 more deaths from coronavirus, bringing the total to 780 and taking the global count past that caused by the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003.
The national health commission confirmed cases across China had risen to 37,198, with 811 deaths. The number of people who died from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) reached 774.
The announcements came after an American citizen died in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus — the first confirmed death of a foreign national in China.
A Japanese man also died after showing symptoms of the virus.
While the vast majority of cases have been in China, the virus has spread to some two dozen countries abroad, including five British nationals infected in a French mountain resort.
US authorities in Beijing confirmed that an American man, aged 60, died on Thursday in Wuhan.
The Japanese man, who was in his 60s, was hospitalised with pneumonia in Wuhan. He died after suffering symptoms consistent with the new coronavirus, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.
Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China — in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both victims were Chinese nationals.
Child among British citizens infected
The latest patients include five British nationals staying in the same chalet at a ski village in Haute-Savoie in the French Alps, health officials said, raising fears of further infections at a busy period in the ski season.
The five, including a child, had been lodged in the same chalet with a person who had been in Singapore.
They were not in a serious condition, the officials said.
France issued a new travel advisory for its citizens, saying it did not recommend travelling to China unless there was an “imperative” reason.
Two schools in that area would be temporarily closed next week, regional health official Jean-Yves Grall said.
Italy asked children travelling from China to stay away from school for two weeks voluntarily.
Chinese-ruled Hong Kong introduced a two-week quarantine on Saturday for all people arriving from the mainland, or who had been there during the previous 14 days.
Another three people on a cruise liner off Japan tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases from the ship to 64, Japan’s health ministry said.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd on Friday banned “any guests holding Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passports, regardless of when they were there last” from boarding the company’s ships.
The WHO warned on Friday against the “unnecessary, unhelpful profiling of individuals based on ethnicity”.
A WHO-led international team investigating the outbreak will leave for China on Monday or Tuesday.
WHO expert Mike Ryan said the number of new cases in Hubei had stabilised over the past four days, “which may reflect the impact of control measures put in place”.
News of the death on Friday of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was reprimanded by police for raising the alarm about the new coronavirus, sparked outrage on Chinese social media and rekindled memories of how Beijing was slow to tell the world about the SARS outbreak.
The virus has been a blow to China’s already-slowing economy, with Goldman Sachs cutting its first-quarter GDP growth target to 4 per cent from 5.6 per cent previously and saying a deeper hit is possible.
“It’s certainly not going to be a return to normal next week,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore.